U.S. Remains Committed to F-35 Program, Panetta Says

OTTAWA, Ontario, March 28, 2012 — Defense Sec­re­tary Leon E. Panet­ta yes­ter­day reaf­firmed the Defense Department’s com­mit­ment to the F-35 joint strike fight­er pro­gram and to ensur­ing it remains with­in the defense strategy’s bud­get.

The sec­re­tary spoke at a news con­fer­ence fol­low­ing a meet­ing with Mex­i­can and Cana­di­an defense lead­ers here.

“As part of the defense strat­e­gy that the Unit­ed States went through and has put in place, we have made very clear that we are 100 per­cent com­mit­ted to the devel­op­ment of the F-35,” he said. “It’s a fifth-gen­er­a­tion fight­er, [and] we absolute­ly need it for the future.”

Acknowl­edg­ing that the Defense Depart­ment has to be vig­i­lant and pro­vide as much over­sight as pos­si­ble as the air­craft con­tin­ues to be devel­oped, Panet­ta said Pen­ta­gon offi­cials are con­fi­dent that “this plane can do every­thing that it’s being asked to do in terms of per­for­mance.

“We’ve been test­ing it, and we con­tin­ue to eval­u­ate it as we pro­ceed,” he con­tin­ued. “And we’ve made very clear to the indus­tries involved in its pro­duc­tion that they have to keep it with­in the cross-con­fine­ments that we’ve pro­vid­ed with regards to this plane.”

Panet­ta not­ed the price of each air­craft varies from vari­ant to vari­ant, with three types involved in the program’s devel­op­ment. Cana­da signed on for the project’s pro­duc­tion, sus­tain­ment and fol­low-on devel­op­ment phase on Dec. 11, 2006, along with Aus­tralia, and the Unit­ed King­dom.

Cana­di­an Defense Min­is­ter Peter MacK­ay called the F-35 an exam­ple of inter­op­er­abil­i­ty as his coun­try faces sim­i­lar chal­lenges with the joint strike fight­er pro­gram.

“In addi­tion, I would add that this is the air­craft that the Roy­al Cana­di­an Air Force, after an exten­sive inter­nal exam­i­na­tion of capa­bil­i­ties and what was on the mar­ket, came to us and said, ‘This the plane we need. This is the plane we want for a whole num­ber of rea­sons.’ ”

MacK­ay said “due dili­gence and analy­sis” are nec­es­sary to ensure tax­pay­ers are well-served and their best inter­ests are con­sid­ered.

“On the aspect of bud­gets as we go for­ward, every depart­ment of gov­ern­ment — every defense depart­ment, cer­tain­ly all of our NATO part­ners, our Mex­i­can col­leagues [and] our friends around the globe — are look­ing to pri­or­i­tize their defense spend­ing,” he said. “It [should] come as no sur­prise to any­one here that Cana­da is going through that exact same process in deter­min­ing what our defense needs are at home.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)